The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape is nestled between Namibia and Botswana and is some 2 ½ hours’ drive outside Upington. This was my first experience of visiting the Kgalagadi in winter since I was at school and each day presented a beautiful cloudless sky. When we arrived, it was the end of June, the weather crisp, with morning temperatures not going below -4°C and the afternoons basked in beautiful sunshine bringing the temperatures up to 30°C. I’m more accustomed to coming to the park in late December when temperatures average 38°C, rocked by afternoon storms. In the summer, game is easily viewed at the waterholes, but in June the recent rains and longer grass made the animals much harder to spot offering me a bit of a challenge. But it was the human influence that was most disappointing. For the first time after numerous visits, I noticed a changing face to the park, with some visitors just not having the same ethos or respect as they once did.
Stretching my legs in the Kgalagadi
A little history
As a child, my family often enjoyed trips to what was then called the Kalahari Gemsbok Park. To get there, one travelled gravel roads from Upington. Today, however, one drives well-maintained tarred roads to reach the park. Some things haven’t changed though. The roads inside the park are still gravel and in parts difficult to navigate, but manageable. Personally, I hope the roads never change as this will keep the park as natural and in its original state as possible.
Kielie Krankie Wilderness Camp
Kielie Krankie has an energy for me, which is hard to put into words. An unfenced camp, it has wooden cabins overlooking a floodlit waterhole. Part of its beauty is its sheer remoteness, with cabins built on stilts and surrounded by magnificent red sand dunes, which we enjoyed, unforgettably, under a full and beautiful blood moon.
One of the real charms of Kielie Krankie is how isolated it feels, even though it’s only some thirty minutes outside Twee Rivieren. It offers easy access early morning and late afternoon to explore the waterholes along the Auob riverbed.
Urikaruus is another unfenced wilderness camp, for which it is well worth the many attempts one will need to make to get a booking. Like at Kielie Krankie, the riverside cabins are on stilts, with wonderful close viewing of the waterhole situated in the riverbed, which attracts animals from all directions.
If you are dedicated and manage to reposition your bed, you can have a view of the waterhole all night, so that you might be lucky enough to spot the late-night visitors, which come to drink. We were exceptionally lucky to spot both resident leopards on this amazing visit.
This camp is often underrated yet remains the most popular gateway to the park.
It takes roughly two hours to drive from Twee Rivieren and along the banks of the Auob River to Mata-Mata. It’s situated on the western boundary of the Kgalagadi and borders Namibia. We were fortunate enough to have chalets with river frontage, which were very well positioned for spectacular sightings at the waterhole.
Within the dry Nossob riverbed and approximately three and a half hours from Twee Rivieren, Nossob has comfortable chalets, also with river frontage. If you’re in luck, you’ll have a close perspective of the waterhole.
Wines enjoyed on the trip
Of course, one can’t enjoy the bush nearly as much without a glass of wine for an evening sundowner. We appreciated:
Scholtz Landing 2013, which I produced with David van Niekerk at High Constantia. These gorgeous bubbles have spent seven years on the lees and drink beautifully. This is a large wine, with fine bubbles and a gorgeous brioche. Recommended!
High Constantia, Cabernet Franc 2013 has amazing complexities, with delicious notes of black cherries, herbaceous flavours and earthy tones.
Klein Jakkals, Family Maree Wines – Syrah 2019, is a very drinkable full-bodied and lightly-oaked wine with delicious red fruit and good spices on the taste.